Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cambridge Family

Last Sunday I decided to join the Churchill College Choir. (for those of you not too familiar with this college system which is unique to Cambridge and 'the other place' ie Oxford there's a brief overview at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colleges_of_the_University_of_Cambridge) Since my College New Hall doesn't have a choir, we join the one nearest. I really missed singing cos I used to sing in Sri Lanka in our church choir and it was great to be part of a choir again.

After the Evensong service we had the formal hall dinner together and a couple of undergrads sitting near me started talking about their 'Sons', 'Daughters' and even 'Grandchildren'. So I was really curious, and asked the girl next to me what this was all about. Then I learnt that here in Cambridge there is a mentorship program for undergrads, where they have a 'mother' and 'father' from the senior year and that usually one is from the same discipline and responsible in helping with the studies of the 'child' while the other is studying a different subject and is responsible to help 'socialise' the 'child'. I was told that they sometimes even have mock wedding ceremonies sometimes. This was the first time I heard of this, cos there's no such thing for the postgrads. This is another one of those eccentricities of Cambridge, which gives it's identity like the 'Harry Potter' gowns which are still worn at formal occations.

I just got to know about another one of these rowing rituals called 'Lent Bumps'. Divisions of 17 or 18 crews line up along the river, with just one-and-a-half boat lengths (90 feet) between each. At the firing of a small cannon, all hell breaks loose as each crew tries to catch up with and actually collide with (bump) the crew in front before the crew behind does the same to them!
The races are held one each day for four days and by bumping on any given day, a crew moves up a place on the river for the following day's race. For any given crew, the aim is to go up four places on the river during the course of the four day's racing.

I never cease to be amazed with all these, but I guess Cambridge wouldn't be Cambridge without these rituals!

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